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Gay Couples Express Hope Over Benefits Extension

Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Barry outlines the signficance of a presidential memorandum that President Obama will sign, extending federal employee benefits for same-sex couples. Audio by Sarah Lovenheim/The Washington Post

Hirsch and Fauchald helped establish Federal Globe in 1992. "There needed to be an organization," Hirsch said. "There was a serious issue of discrimination around the government. You could be fired for being gay."

Now, he said, such issues are less prevalent. "Very rarely have there been problems of security clearances anymore," Hirsch said. "Benefits are clearly the big outstanding issue."

Jamie Price, a lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said she hopes Obama's action will "perhaps spur Congress" into approving the bipartisan legislation that would provide domestic partners of federal workers the same benefits as the spouses of federal employees.

"It's a very important issue to me," Price said. "I have a partner of 20 years who would like to retire, but to do so, I have to keep her on my insurance."

Price said she also hopes the presidential memorandum will help gay employees feel more comfortable in the federal workforce. "Most gays and lesbians tend to keep a low profile," she said. "We stay out of the office coffee pot conversations about what you did over the weekend. We don't feel we can or should contribute."

Obama's action "may help younger workers feel they can be open," Price added.

At age 52, Holmes hopes to retire from the GAO in about three years but is anxious about whether Garner, her partner, will be covered with health and retirement benefits. "I've become very concerned as I move toward retirement, and I'm not too far away," Holmes said.

Passage of the legislation, she added, "would take a tremendous weight off us."

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